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Thousands arrive in Calgary fleeing wildfires in Northwest Territories

The City of Calgary is continuing to support and accommodate displaced residents from the Northwest Territories (NWT) as wildfires grow and an evacuation mandate is enforced. 

On August 15, 2023, the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs declared a state of emergency and directed residents of the City of Yellowknife and the surrounding areas to begin evacuation. Residents were given until August 18, 2023, at noon to evacuate. 

The City of Calgary initially announced that they were expecting five flights of evacuees to arrive at the Calgary International Airport, however, the airport received a total of 15 flights with 1,269 passengers from the NWT. 

On August 18, 2023, the City announced that they will be expecting an additional 26 flights with a total of 2,300 evacuees.  

“I think we are well prepared to take 5,000 [evacuees]. If we get close to that capacity, we have the ability to find additional capacity. Initially, we are looking at hotels and other spaces that are usable before we get to opening reception centers such as Stampede,” said Iain Bushell, Director of Emergency Management and Community Safety. 

To date, the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) has provided 495 hotel rooms for displaced residents from the NWT with that number rapidly increasing as evacuees continue to arrive at reception centres. 

“We are prepared to house them [evacuees] and help them for as long as they need. I know that it is the focus of the city of Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories Government to evacuate people to keep them safe and as soon as it is safe to do so, to get them back to their homes and their communities,” said Bushell. 

For evacuees arriving by air at the Calgary Internation Airport, the reception centre is available for support at Arrivals 12. For those who drove, the reception centre is located at the Calgary Westin at 671 Aero Drive NE. 

The City of Calgary encourages the evacuees of the Northwest Territories to register on the Government of the Northwest Territories website

The City of Calgary has said that they know how generous Calgarians are and encourage those who want to donate to check the Nortwest Terroties website for recommended organizations to donate to. The City has asked that donations are not made to reception centres because they are not equipped to handle such requests. 

“The City of Calgary is willing and able to help our neighbours wherever they come from whenever they need it,” said Bushell. 
Wildfire evacuees can find more information on this website created by the City of Calgary.